Nyingma Faculty

Nyingma Institute Faculty

Nyingma Institute Faculty have all demonstrated excellence in the subjects that they teach, and strive to apply Nyingma teachings in their own lives. Some faculty members work as full-time volunteers with the Nyingma organizations; others continue to work in their own fields, applying the practices that they teach to their work and family life. All faculty members volunteer their time to teach and hold office hours by appointment. Students wishing to make appointments with any of our faculty members may contact them by phone at (510) 809-1000 or by email at Nyingma-Institute@Nyingma.org

Short biographies follow of individual faculty members, including a list of the areas in which they most frequently teach:


Sylvia Gretchen, Co-Dean of the Nyingma Institute, has studied and worked with Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku since 1969. She has served as Co-Dean of the Nyingma Institute since 1996 and has also worked extensively with Tibetan sacred art and literature under the direction of Tarthang Tulku. She served for over 20 years as a research editor with Dharma Publishing, working with the Tibetan texts that have been published in the 755 Volume Great Treasures of Ancient Teachings. She is a member of the Yeshe De translation team and is a writer and editor for Dharma Publishing. Sylvia has taught Nyingma Meditation, Buddhist Studies, Nyingma Psychology and Practices, and Tibetan Art and Language at the Nyingma Institute since 1974.

Barr Rosenberg, Ph.D., has been a Co-Dean of the Nyingma Institute since 1999 and a student of Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku since the early 1970’s. He is a member of the Yeshe De translation team, and is a successful entrepreneur. Barr taught for many years at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught at the Nyingma Institute since 1982. He regularly teaches courses at the Institute in Nyingma Meditation, Buddhist Studies, and Tibetan Art and Language.


Dave Abercrombie, B.S., is an entrepreneur and computer programmer who has studied Nyingma teachings for more than five years. Dave teaches Skillful Means classes, drawing upon his own experience in bringing these teachings into the workplace. His Institute teaching allows him to share with his students his particular passion for utilizing work to benefit the world.



Robin Caton, J.D., M.F.A. has studied intensively at the Nyingma Institute since 1996. For many years, Robin was a partner in a major San Francisco law firm, and later a poet and teacher of writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. Her published works include a book of poetry, The Color of Dusk. Robin primarily teaches in the areas of Nyingma Meditation and Nyingma Psychology and also teaches Ethics and other subjects in the Continuing Legal Education Program. Robin is also the director of Dharma College.


Pema Gellek, M.A., received formal training in Buddhist studies and practice from Nyingma teachers in Nepal and informal training from her father, Tarthang Tulku. Pema heads the Guna Foundation and has worked for both Dharma Publishing and the Tibetan Aid Project. Her areas of teaching at the Nyingma Institute most often are Nyingma Practices and Buddhist Studies.



Mary Gomes, Ph.D., and Professor of Psychology in the California State University system, has authored several important works in the emerging field of eco-psychology. She is a long-time practitioner of meditation and has taught meditative practices to college students for many years. As the mother of a young daughter, Mary also brings to her teaching at the Institute her experience balancing work and family life in this busy world. She leads workshops and classes in Nyingma Meditation and Nyingma Psychology.


Mark Henderson, J.D., LL.M. has been a student of Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku for many years. Once a full-time attorney, Mark made the commitment several years ago to give up his law practice and become a full-time volunteer at the Nyingma Institute. Since then, he has helped in many capacities to complete projects such as prayer wheels. Mark teaches classes in Beginning and Intermediate Tibetan Language, and also in Nyingma Practices.


Olivia Hurd, B.F.A, artist and retired publisher, is a long-time student of Tibetan Buddhism who has practiced meditation for more than 30 years. She is an active member of the Berkeley Potter’s Guild and a volunteer at both the Nyingma Institute and the Tibetan Aid Project. Olivia teaches Nyingma Meditation classes and workshops at the Institute.



Hugh Joswick, Ph.D., has been studying at the Nyingma Institute since the mid-1990’s. While working full-time outside the Institute, Hugh volunteers many hours a week in various capacities to help the Institute function more effectively and to bring his skill with photography and computer technology to bear on Institute projects. Trained as a Philosophy Professor, Hugh is a devoted practitioner of meditation and a continuing student of Nyingma teachings. He brings a gentle technique and a skillful style of inquiry to teaching Nyingma Meditation at the Intermediate level.


Lama Palzang is a Nyingma Lama born in Tibet who received a thorough formal education in Tibet and Nepal. Lama Palzang has worked on Dharma projects in both Asia and the United States. Lama Palzang teaches courses in Nyingma Practices, as well as in Buddhist Studies.



Ken McKeon, M.A., a student of Tarthang Tulku since the 1970’s, is a highly regarded poet and a devoted High School teacher. His love of both the English language and the possibilities for human growth inherent in explorations of meaning, led him early on to become first a student, and then a teacher of the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision. Ken brings a sense of wonder and delight to his classes at the Institute, as he guides students through their own journey into mind and human consciousness.


Tom Morse, like his frequent co-teacher Ken McKeon, found his own love of knowledge drawing him many years ago to Tarthang Tulku’s Time, Space, and Knowledge vision. He has been exploring this vision through practice and study ever since. Tom teaches Time, Space, and Knowledge classes at the Institute, and has recently begun teaching a new series of classes based on Tarthang Tulku’s book Knowledge of Freedom.


Donna Morton, B.S. is a physical therapist and nutritional consultant. A number of years ago, she took the Institute’s Four-Month Human Development Training Retreat and since that time has been a committed student of Nyingma teachings. She primarily teaches in the area of Kum Nye, a gentle form of Tibetan Yoga developed for Westerners by Head Lama Tarthang Tulku. Donna leads Intermediate Kum Nye classes, and also teaches a special workshop, “The Art of Sitting Comfortably,” on how to maintain a good, comfortable posture in meditation.


Jack Petranker, J.D., has been a student of Buddhism since 1973. Jack is a senior editor for Dharma Publishing and past Dean of the Nyingma Institute (1988-1991); he also served as Vice-President of the World Fellowship of Buddhism from 1988-1992. Trained as a lawyer, he serves as the attorney for Nyingma organizations and sits on the board of Dharma Publishing, the Tibetan Aid Project, and the Light of Buddhadharma Foundation. He is also the founder of the Center for Creative Inquiry, an independent non-profit corporation inspired by the Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) vision introduced to the West by Tarthang Tulku. The editor of numerous books on TSK, he is the author of When it Rains Does Space Get Wet? Jack teaches classes, workshops, and retreats in Buddhist Studies, Nyingma Meditation, and Time, Space, and Knowledge. He is also one of the instructors in the Institute’s Continuing Legal Education Program.

Santosh Phillip, M.A, an architect and entrepreneur, has studied Nyingma teachings since 1995. His primary teaching area is Kum Nye, where he conveys his considerable love and respect for Tibetan Yoga self-massage and movement practices to his students, both at the advanced and introductory levels. Nearly every Sunday throughout the year, Santosh and fellow Kum Nye instructor, Jack van der Meulen, alternate teaching a drop-in Kum Nye morning class from ten to Noon; Santosh also teaches Nyingma Practices classes, including classes in dream yoga.


Erika Rosenberg, Ph.D. is a research psychologist in human emotions who brings an expertise in both Western and Eastern psychology to her teaching at the Nyingma Institute. She is the co-author of Psychology: Making Connections, a college-level textbook that includes sections on meditation. Erika has studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism for more than 20 years. A regular lecturer and leader of graduate-level seminars, she teaches Nyingma Psychology courses at the Institute and is also an Instructor in the Institute’s Continuing Legal Education program.


Elissa Slanger, Ph.D., has studied at the Nyingma Institute since 1982. Dr. Slanger brings a wealth of experience to her teaching from her professional work as a practicing clinical psychologist, artist, and author. An octogenarian, Dr. Slanger speaks from her own experience on how Nyingma teachings positively affect how we age and how we cope with the losses and disabilities that come with aging. She will lead workshops and retreats that bring the value of meditation and Nyingma Psychology to bear on the aging process and will also offer workshops for those in the healing professions.


Jack van der Meulen has been a student of Kum Nye since the 1990’s. His careful and caring style makes his classes particularly beloved by beginning and intermediate students, who appreciate his clear and gentle instructions. Although he works full-time outside the Institute, has a family, and lives in Marin County, Jack nevertheless makes time to alternate with Santosh Philip in leading Sunday morning drop-in Kum Nye classes throughout the year. He is also a frequent leader of Saturday workshops and a popular speaker about the benefits of Kum Nye in the Institute’s free Sunday evening lecture series.


Rosalyn White, B.F.A, trained under the direction of Tarthang Tulku in Tibetan painting and has been his student since the 1970’s. Rosalyn has served as Director of Dharma Publishing and is currently the Director of the Tibetan Aid Project. She teaches courses at the Institute in Tibetan Art and Nyingma Practices.